Sundance 2011: 'It's going to be nuts!'
As the sun receded behind the Wasatch Mountains Thursday evening in a fiery blaze of pink and temperatures plummeted to the single digits in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival began, in earnest, with the 6:00 p.m. screening of the U.S. documentary entry “Sing Your Song.” The movie “surveys the life and times of singer/actor/activist Harry Belafonte,” according to fest literature.
And with the simple action of having light run behind film through a projector before the darkened Eccles Theater, so ebbed the last vestiges of normality this tiny former mining town is likely to see for the next 10 days.
With the annual onset of the festival, Park City is transformed by the influx of Indie filmdom’s best and brightest as well as no shortage of ambush marketers; phalanxes of agents, mobs of publicists, impatient acquisitions agents; “the talent” as well as various hangers-on and well-wishers to the Celebrity Industrial Complex. Call it Hollywood on Ice.
Even though the full force of Sundance isn’t typically felt here until the festival’s first full day — Friday — and carrying on heavy and hard until Monday when most movie biz machers return home, all along the central artery of Main Street were displays of the town's engagement with movie money and signs of what was to come in following days.
Cadillac Escalades with blacked-out windows trawled the street disgorging well-heeled passengers in front of “No Parking” signs. And wide-eyed dudes in ski suits carrying cameras with wide-angle lenses kept vigilant; they would have thrilled to capture a shot of even a D-list celeb. But those Sundance archetypes don’t arrive until the clarion call of the festival's s swag suites has gone out (typically, around noon on Days 2, 3 and 4 of the festival).
One dude was dressed up as Capt. Jack Sparrow — Johnny Depp’s character from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise — running up to tourists to cadge hand-outs. And if you were in the right place at the right time, you would’ve seen “Access Hollywood’s” princess-like host Maria Menounos, resplendent in a fur bolero jacket, entering the VIP watering hole, the Bing Bar, in anticipation of recording a remote spot for the show.
Many of the curio shops and ski boutiques have been shuttered, as is the case every year, to become temporary businesses — Kari Feinstein’s Style Lounge, the Miami Express Yourself Lounge, the Variety Studio, etc. — a Neverland of pop-up branding in stark contrast with the scenic Utah environs.
Still, a sense that the real action was yet to come prevailed.
“The real mobs of people aren’t here yet,” said Tenalee Spencer, 23, who had traveled up from Salt Lake City for the festival’s first weekend in the hopes of sighting some stars. “But believe me, this weekend it’s going to be nuts.”
— Chris Lee
Photo (top): Producer Michael Cohl, Harry Belafonte, director Susanne Rostock and producer Julius Nasso pose for a picture before the premiere of the documentary "Sing Your Song" during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Thursday evening. Credit: EPA/George Frey
Photo: A trolley drives along Main Street in Park City on Thursday. Credit: Associated Press/Danny Moloshok